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Tunisian fights to stay in Canada

The brother-in-law of ousted Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali lost his bid Tuesday to have his Canadian permanent residency reinstated.

Canada's Immigration and Refugee Board denied Belhassen Trabelsi's request, but because he has applied for refugee status he will likely remain in Canada for years while that issue is decided.

Trabelsi, the billionaire brother of former first lady Leila Trabelsi, arrived in Canada with his wife and two daughters on a private jet as the regime was falling in January 2011. He has lived in Montreal ever since.

His lawyers argued that he should be allowed to stay on humanitarian grounds but an IRB board member said there was no indication he wouldn't get a fair trial if he returned to Tunisia.

He is accused of looting Tunisia's public treasury. Belhassen, known as the clan chieftan of the hated Trabelsi family, is alleged to have ruled over the family's mafia-style rackets.

To keep one's permanent residence status, a person must remain in Canada for at least two years out of every five. His lawyers admitted he had failed to meet that requirement.

Trabelsi did show up for his hearing in late April after failing in a legal bid to have it held behind closed doors. His lawyers said that he feared for his safety, given the media coverage and Tunisian protesters present for the public hearing.

Trabelsi has been charged and sentenced in absentia in his native Tunisia. In September, Trabelsi was sentenced to 15 years and fined $500,000 for corruption, unlawful trade of precious metals and unlawful transfer of foreign currency. In December, he received a 21-month sentence for unlawful possession of archaeological pieces.